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Finding two stats to represent each Giants starting pitcher

Are the stats depressing? Look, let’s not quibble about the “meaning” of “words”

MLB: Colorado Rockies at San Francisco Giants Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, I looked at one stat for each hitter and used that to talk about something interesting about him. Today, I’m looking at two stats for each starting pitcher this year (minimum three starts, and apologies to Mr. Beede) to find out what those stats can tell us about those pitchers. It’ll be fun! Except for the part where most of them have been bad, I mean. Otherwise, total fun!

Jeff Samardzija: 5.4 BB/9, 32.6 GB%

Since he’s come to the Giants, Samardzija has been fantastic at limiting walks and perfectly decent at getting groundballs, which is key for him, since approximately every fly ball he’s ever given up has been a home run. This year, he’s been awful at both. This isn’t to say this is an inherent part of his game and will be until his contract runs out after 2020 — Samardzija desperately needed more rehab starts that the state of the Giants rotation meant he did not get, and has looked better in his last couple starts — but so far this year, he’s been walking tons of guys and not getting many groundballs, which explains a lot of his poor season.

Andrew Suarez: 4.48 FIP, 3.26 xFIP

By ERA, Suarez has been even worse than his FIP this year, coming in at a cool 4.88. But that FIP and xFIP difference says a lot about either Suarez’s bad luck so far this year, or what he needs to learn to overcome his bad outings. It all kinda depends. Because it’s just as easy to say that no one gives up a homer on 22.2% of his fly balls as it is to say that that applies to most major league pitchers solely because most major league pitchers are good enough to not give up half of those homers.

In other words, the rules of looking at a Fangraphs page and knowing why it’s okay and we should all calm down are rules that might not apply to Andrew Suarez, because it’s entirely possible that he doesn’t have the skill set to limit homers. I don’t think that’s the case; Suarez has generally looked good to me, and my opinion is that he’s good enough to not give up so many dingers. But it would be silly to act as if my opinion is fact, and the difference between his FIP and xFIP is a good reminder that his major league future is still uncertain.

Johnny Cueto: 32 IP, 0.84 ERA


Derek Holland: 41.1 IP, 0.1 WAR

He is what he was supposed to be. He’s a guy who can pitch some innings in the rotation and make you think, “Hey, could be worse!” He’s a guy who, when the team’s rotation has four other guys who are doing well and there’s a starter tearing it up in AAA, gets wellemeyered without a second thought. On this Giants team, in this Giants rotation, that makes him one of the better options.

Chris Stratton: -3.0 wCB, -4.0 wSL

Those are pitch values from Fangraphs, and as much as I prefer to use stats that are more intuitive, well, here we are. They’re important because Chris Stratton’s big strength as a starter is supposed to be his curveball. That first negative number up there? It means that his curveball has been bad this year. That second negative number? it means his slider’s been bad. Those specific numbers are the number of runs that each pitch has cost Stratton on the year, and in just 48 innings, his breaking pitches have combined to be seven runs below average (There’s a more complete explanation here, if you want it).

Last year, Stratton’s curveball was fantastic and his slider was about half as bad as this year’s version. This year, they’ve both been dreadful. If you’re looking for a reason that he’s been so much less effective this year than last, that’s a good place to start.

Ty Blach: 4.39 K/9, 87.1 MPH average exit velocity

This is basically what you should expect from Ty Blach. He’s not going to strike guys out, but hopefully he can induce weak enough contact to get through a start. That exit velocity is better than the league average (this is one of those situations where the phrase “above average” could appear to mean the opposite of what it actually means), which is how he’s going to compensate for the lack of whiffs. Slapping a Kirk Rueter comp on him is almost cliche at this point, but this is the same playbook Rueter was working from, and it helped him have a good, long major league career.

This was not the rotation the Giants were supposed to have this year. Now, the rotation they were supposed to have lacked depth, but the Bumgarner injury was legitimately unpredictable bad luck, and both Samardzija and Cueto getting injured forced the team into making some moves they didn’t want to make. But we’re not in Everything Goes Well For The Giantsland. We’re here, and these are the guys who are gonna be out there for a while. They’ve all got some work to do.